Book Review: Heat by Sally Emerson

An intense and addictive novel about lost love and the compulsive pull of the past. Passionate, tense and menacing, Sally Emerson’s classic tale of obsession in a claustrophobic city is an emotional thriller from start to finish. Susan Stewart thought her relationship with journalist Phillip Jordan was long over. But when Susan glimpses him again in a bookshop on the outskirts of Washington DC, the memories return. Is Phillip deliberately haunting her? Or are her own disturbed emotions turning a long, hot, oppressive Washington summer into a nightmare that threatens to unravel her whole life? This is a gripping story of obsession and love – and the difference between the two – by a formidable novelist. Newly re-issued as part of a series of six titles.

What I Thought:
I was asked a while ago to review Fire Child, the first of Quartet Books’ reissues of Sally Emerson’s novels and hot on its heels came Heat, an intensely disturbing but compelling domestic thriller.

Susan’s life is seemingly perfect from the outside – she and her successful journalist husband are living in Washington where they are raising their daughter in an upscale neighbourhood. Susan wants only one more thing, a son to complete her family, and when she starts to see her former lover, Phillip, in unexpected places, she wonders if she’s starting to come apart at the seams.

Heat is so aptly named, as Sally Emerson brilliantly uses both the oppressive humidity of Washington, and the exhausting social and political whirl to create a sense of claustrophobia in Susan’s life that only grows with Phillip’s reappearance. As it becomes clear that Phillip is really living in Susan’s neighbourhood and he’s not a figment of her imagination, she begins to recall details of their life together – a life marked by domestic violence and, possibly, murder.

This book is beautifully paced, with the tension building as Susan worries about contact with Phillip, but also when events begin to build in the lives of her husband and daughter. It is a chilling depiction of a woman who thought she had freed herself from an abusive relationship, but the tendrils of it keep working their way back to her.

Heat was originally published in 1998, but the themes in it are, sadly, no less relevant now with domestic violence and unwanted attention and stalking still all too real for some women. It’s a sad indictment on our society that, as with Susan, so many women are thought hysterical and not believed when they raise the issue of stalking to authorities.

As I said above, there are six Sally Emerson reissues in this set and, luckily for me I have some of the others to read too – look out for my reviews of those.

Heat is published in paperback by Quartet Books. To find out more about Sally Emerson, you can check out her website, or connect with her on Twitter.

Please note: I received a copy of this for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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